Born in Lviv in 1877, Bałaban was the first to use modern scientific methods to research the history of Polish Jewry, contributing to a great progress in historiography of the Polish Jews. He believed, which was reflected in his books and articles, that the Polish Jews were one of the most important and creative communities in the history of Jewry in the whole world. His works on the Jews from Lviv, Cracow and Lublin still today are important compendiums on this subject matter. He emphasised the significance of research on the Polish-Jewish history as both an integral part of the world history of the Jews and key component of the history of Poland.
During the First World War, he served as a military rabbi in Lublin. During the interwar period he taught, directed the Rabbinical School in Warsaw, was a professor at the University of Warsaw and the Institute for Judaic Studies, whose tradition is maintained today by, located in its former edifice, the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute. Even during the Nazi occupation, imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto, Bałaban did not stop doing research work. He died at the turn of 1942/43.
Majer Bałaban is also a patron of a biyearly contest to reward the best graduation and Ph.D. works about Jews and Israel.
The idea for the contests was born in the Jewish Historical Institute in 1990. We decided that it was necessary at the time. After the political transformation, works in the field of humanities which broke various taboos cultivated in the preceding era started to be written. One of such terrae incognitae was the history of the Jews in Poland. We knew that in various research facilities, young researchers were taking up this subject. However, we did not know where and what kind of works were being written. We wanted the JHI to become a place where these works could be stored, serving others. And so it happened, outr Archive has assembled an extensive collection of contest works. Today, we can proudly say that our Institute has become the only-in-Poland information centre about the areas of undertaken research on the Jewish subject matter.
The first contest (in 1991) encompassed only master’s theses, as at the time there were not enough doctoral ones on the subject of our interest. All subsequent editions of the contest (the second one in 1993, the third in 1996, the fourth in 2009 and fifth in 2011) included both master’s and doctoral theses. Every year more and more entries were submitted, always a few dozens.
This year closing date for submissions is February 19th.